It’s a Time of Giving--and Remembering : Nation Takes Special Note of Homeless, Families of Crash Victims

From Times Wire Services

Americans embraced Christmas by feeding the homeless, giving toys to needy children and praying for the families of victims killed in the crash of a jetliner in Scotland.

At a housing project in New York City, a group of Wall Street traders on Saturday watched the yuletide spirit brighten the faces of hundreds of poor families who were given a take-home Christmas feast--a $100 precooked turkey dinner big enough to feed eight people.

“It gives me a tremendously great feeling to help out people who are less fortunate than I am,” said Mark Feely, 34, while handing out the boxed dinners containing a 16-pound roast turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, string beans, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

$150,000 Contributed


About 1,000 free turkey meals and about 600 food baskets for the homeless were paid for with a $150,000 contribution from traders on the New York Stock Exchange.

In Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest homeless shelter, New Horizons, cooked up a Christmas Eve turkey dinner for residents occupying its 70 beds. Shelter officials said they would let holiday visitors sleep in Christmas morning.

In Houston, nearly 400 needy Latino children thought they would not have a merry Christmas after thieves broke into the office of the Mutual Society of Mexican Workmen and stole nearly all of the 1,500 toys the volunteers collected in the last three months. But the Mexican Workmen solicited last-minute donations and were able to replace the stolen toys.

President Reagan asked the nation to say “a special prayer this Christmas” for those who lost loved ones in the crash of Pan Am Flight 103 that killed all 258 passengers, most of them Americans returning home for Christmas.


Soviet Circus Feted

In Seattle, members of the Moscow Circus were to receive 130 handmade Christmas stockings, stuffed with donated gifts ranging from apples from the Washington State Apple Commission to Christmas cards made by second-graders at a nearby school. The circus is on a five-day run in Seattle.

A few families in the United States got to speak to loved ones stationed at military bases overseas through a live television satellite hookup, sponsored by the United Services Organizations and AT&T.;

The USO HolidayLink Program, begun in 1985, gives a few of the 836,106 men and women serving in the military overseas an opportunity to make a rare visit home for the holidays, even if limited to a few minutes on a screen. The military personnel were chosen from a random pool at select bases.


Shirley Johnson wiped away tears while watching her son, Army Spec. Jeffrey Lawson, speak from Frankfurt, West Germany, on a link to Washington.

“I sure miss you, ma,” Lawson told her. “Say ‘hi’ to your grandson, ma. I bet you hardly recognize him,” Lawson said, lifting his 1-year-old, Jeffrey Jr., into view.

‘Don’t Need Any Presents’

Johnson, who last saw her grandchild when he was 3 months old, beamed with joy. “I don’t need any presents for Christmas now,” she said. “This has been the best Christmas we’ve had in a long, long time.” It had been more than three years since Lawson had seen his mother, and six years had passed since the two shared Christmas.


Meanwhile, in Vatican City, Pope John Paul II heralded the birth of Jesus in a midnight Mass homily for Roman Catholics worldwide, and state-run Italian television said the message was being broadcast to the Soviet Union for the first time.

The Pope walked into St. Peter’s Basilica moments before midnight at the end of a long cortege of priests. At the same time, church bells chimed all over Rome.

The Pope opened the homily in St. Peter’s Basilica by quoting from Luke 2:10-11: “I bring you good news of great joy for to you is born a savior.”